Bob Birge's Irish Eyes Are Smiling

August 31, 2009 3:46 AM

Favorable schedule no guarantee of success for Irish

Notre Dame's new 7-4-1 scheduling format - seven home games, four road affairs and one neutral site contest - is not going over too well with its detractors.

There has been much talk about how this is a trend toward watering down the schedule, something Notre Dame vehemently disputes. Still, the critics may have a point, as Notre Dame's 2009 schedule looks pretty easy on paper.

Of course, a so-called favorable schedule is no guarantee of anything. The Irish are not to the point where they can count any game on their slate as an automatic 'W' (although there are couple games this year that would appear to be close to automatic wins).

Notre Dame fans would love to forget - but they can't - the disgraceful defeat to 2-8 Syracuse in South Bend last season. The Irish had never - that's never, as in not ever - lost to a team with eight losses.

Here, then, is a quick analysis of the 2009 schedule:

September 5, Nevada - A 14-point favorite, Notre Dame should win its opener, but the spread may be too much. Rembember how the Irish struggled for three quarters against San Diego State of the Football Championship Subdivision in last year's opener (21-13 win) ? Also, Nevada's dual threat quarterback Colin Kaepernick could give ND fits. We should find out right away if the Irish's defense really has improved.

September 12, a Michigan - In year two of the Rich Rodriguez regime, the Wolverines should be improved - they can't be much worse - and will be eager to make amends for last year's debacle (six turnovers) in South Bend.

September 19, Michigan State - Will the Irish ever again beat Sparty at home?

September 26, at Purdue - Joe Tiller, the one coach that Charlie Weis could out-coach, is gone. With Tiller gone, perhaps the Boilers will decide that defense isn't optional.

October 3, Washington - Too bad Tyrone Willingham won't be around to get booed by the Notre Dame faithful.

October 17, USC - With any luck, the Irish will be 5-0. They won't be 6-0 when the Trojans leave beautiful South Bend.

October 24, Boston College - Are the Irish's still being haunted by David Gordon, whose winning kick in 1993 cost Lou Holtz a second national title at ND?

October 31, Washington State - (at San Antonio). A "home" game for the Irish deep in the heart of Texas. Wonderful that ND gets to play both Washington and Washington State, the two worst teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision last year.

November 7, Navy - Maybe the Irish will spend the week before this game practicing how to recover onside kicks. Last year, the Irish allowed Navy to recover two onside kicks and nearly squandered a 20-point lead in the final two minutes.

November 14 at Pittsburgh - At least the Irish won't have to worry about LeSean McCoy, who is in the NFL.

November 21, Connecticut - Was UConn bullied into this series with the Irish, which includes no games in New England, or what?

November 28, at Stanford - Could a BCS bowl berth be on the line for the Irish, who
have won seven straight against the Cardinal?

not when they lost to 2-8 Syracuse last seas

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